- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2007

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — It’s not just pollution and development that are degrading the Chesapeake Bay — it’s also global climate change that is sickening the estuary, according to a report released yesterday by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The nonprofit environmental group said it is broadening its scope as it works to restore the Bay. The foundation’s report says the same things polluting the air, such as low-efficiency electric bulbs and the region’s long commutes, are also hurting the Bay.

“It could be truly catastrophic if we fail to act now,” foundation President Will Baker said.

From eelgrass die-offs near Tangier Sound — which killed valuable habitat for blue crabs — to the decline of brook trout in cold-water streams in Pennsylvania, the report suggests warmer water may be a contributor to the decline of aquatic life.

“Higher air temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay region mean a rise in water temperatures, with potentially devastating ecological consequences,” the report says.

The news isn’t good for people, either. The foundation argues that rising sea levels, accompanied by sinking land mass due to geologic changes, means the region could see waters rise by three to four feet by the end of the century. The report includes pictures of Chesapeake islands that once supported communities but have since eroded away.

“You can already look around the Bay area and see the effects,” said Beth McGee, a foundation scientist and lead author on the report.

The report also warns of strong storms that could batter low-lying areas. Hardest hit, the authors conclude, would be areas such as Virginia’s Hampton Roads.

The call for more attention to climate change is overdue, said Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, which did not participate in writing the report.

Mr. Tidwell said global warming legislation is as important as the many other things watershed states are doing to help restore the Bay, such as improving sewage treatment plants and reducing phosphorus in household products.

“All these things that are being done to save the Bay, even if we were to succeed wildly … but do nothing to stop global warming, the Bay will die,” Mr. Tidwell said.